How to Choose the Right Warming Cabinet for Your Facility

Warming cabinet
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Warmed blankets are an easy and effective way to create a caring atmosphere

J3 Warming Cabinet

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Warming cabinets have traditionally played a minor role in healthcare facilities for over the last 80 years.

But with changing trends, the warming cabinet is starting to become a more integral part of medical facilities as they help prevent hypothermia and enhance the overall patient experience.

Medical warming cabinets now highlight state of the art technology for warming sterile water and saline solutions, as well as warming blankets.

The most advanced warming cabinets will have digital touchscreen capabilities, with Wi-Fi, lockout passcodes and automatic shut off and data logging.

With the technology changing and more options becoming available, how can you be sure which warming cabinet is the right fit for your facility?

Your blanket and fluid warming cabinets should do two basic things:

  1. Get your blankets and fluids warm, and
  2. They need to keep them warm

Here are some other variables to consider that will help make your decision easier.

Patients’ Needs

  • How many patients does your area have on any given day?
  • How many of those patients require warmed blankets and/or fluids?
    • Remember that fluids and blankets cannot be warmed in the same compartment. If you require both, you would need a dual compartment warming cabinet. Make sure that each compartment has its own temperature gauge.
    • Do you notice any trends with patients? Do seasonal changes influence the needs of patients?
    • In comparison to the quantity of warming cabinets that you are wanting to purchase, do you have enough staff to not only stock them but make sure they are functioning properly?
    • Have you done any internal research with staff in regards to patient volumes, needs and trends?

Space Available

  • What are the dimensions of the area that you have available? Do not forget to include height.
  • Are you going to only have a single location to house multiple units?
  • If you are looking at multiple warming cabinets, have you done due diligence for each location to determine proper placement?
  • Do your research. Would a single unit be a good fit or would several, smaller stackable units be better?
    • Do you have the budget for buying a deluxe size or dual cavity warming cabinet, or can you get several smaller warming cabinets for less?
    • Buying stackable units might be beneficial in an unforeseen way, such as present-day unplanned future expansions. The bigger the unit, the more expensive it is going to be and the harder it will be to move it.
    • Keep in mind that some deluxe sized warming cabinets have separate compartments meant for warming blankets and fluids. When it comes to available space and needs, this is important because blankets and fluids must be kept separately.

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Time to Warm Up

  • Does the department the warming cabinet is going to need a faster warm up time? For example, the emergency room department would need a fast warm up time due to potential, serious issues for patients. Hypothermia patients could go into cardiac arrest if liquids or blankets are not heated to the ideal temperature within an acceptable amount of time.
  • Blankets have an ideal maximum temperature of 54.4°C.

Fluid Temperature Measurement

  • Understand that not all warming cabinets measure temperature in the same way. Does the warming cabinet you are looking at buying measure temperature by the heat of the hot plate or the circulating air within the compartment?
  • Has the manufacturer tested the temperature of individual fluid bags or blankets at different levels of time vs heat to get an actual temperature reading on the item?
  • Check with your facility as to the warming temperature guidelines and compare those to the measurements of the warming cabinets.
    • Each bag of fluid should indicate the length of time it can be stored and at what temperature. Typically, it is 21 days at 35.6°C to 36.7°C. The difference between manufacturers expiration times usually depend on what material was used for housing the fluids. The plastic used in making the bags is what deteriorates over time in a heated environment.

Security Features

  • First, check your internal policies to see what is already in place.
  • Would having a security key or keyless entry be better suited for your facility? Does this come standard with the unit, or is this an extra cost?
  • If you are thinking of not having security, keep in mind that a security feature will help you keep better track of inventory.
  • Does the warming cabinet come with audio or visual alarms if the temperature gets too low or too high?

Other Things to Consider

  • Ease of use: The more complicated the warming cabinet is to use, the more margin of error there is. In addition, it will take more time to train employees and confirm proper use.
  • Energy efficiency: Is your warming cabinet going to cost you more to operate than its purchase price? Does it come with any energy efficient certifications?
  • Product trial: Does the manufacturer or vendor offer product trials?
  • Customization: Are the shelving components customizable? You never know how your needs will change over time, so having this option could save you a lot of headache in the future.
  • Glass or solid door: While glass doors may be more expensive in some cases, the cost is migrated over time as the door does not have to be opened as often to check stock levels.

When considering buying a new warming cabinet, understand that this is a guideline, but that there are other factors to consider as well.

Each healthcare facility will have its own needs and protocols that will determine its best purchasing route.

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